Last weekend in Evanston, Nebraska took a 14-point lead over Northwestern early in the fourth quarter. With less than six minutes remaining, the Huskers led by 10. They lost that game in overtime, allowing a 99-yard touchdown drive at the end of regulation to tie the game.
On Saturday, Nebraska led 28-0 late in the first half. The Huskers surrendered 22 straight points from there to let the Gophers pull within a score. This time, however, the Huskers responded by slamming the door on any comeback attempt.
This week’s Play of the Game is Dedrick Young’s fourth-quarter interception at the goal line.
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) October 20, 2018
Nebraska built the lead back up to 17 with a touchdown and a field goal, but Minnesota ripped off an 87-yard kickoff return and was right back in business in the red zone. A 6-yard pass on first down set up a second-and-4 at the 7-yard line, and back-up quarterback Taylor Morgan dropped back to pass again, targeting Rashod Bateman on a slant over the middle.
Sophomore cornerback Dicaprio Bootle played the route well and got his hands in there as the ball got to Bateman. The ball ricocheted off its intended receiver straight into the air and senior linebacker Dedrick Young leaped and plucked the ball out of the air, falling into the end zone for a touchback.
It was the first career pick for the four-year starter.
Three plays later, freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez found senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. and Morgan took it all the way for a 67-yard touchdown that put the Huskers up 46-22 with just over five minutes to play.
Young had his difficulties in coverage throughout the game, but he also finished with seven tackles and came up with Nebraska’s only turnover of the game.
“Dedrick, first of all, is a really smart, good football player; that’s just what he is,” senior linebacker Luke Gifford said. “He’s a good football player. He’s always where he’s supposed to be and good things happen to guys that do that. And he may not have had that many opportunities for plays like that, I feel like, in his career. He’s played a lot of games but I just feel like he hasn’t gotten that opportunity much and today when he did, he took advantage of it. I’m happy for him.”
Making the day even more special for Young was the fact that he was awarded the Brooke Berringer Memorial Scholarship prior to the game. The scholarship is given to one football player each year who demonstrates excellent character and integrity on and off the field.
“He works his tail off,” Gifford said. “Everyone respects him. Super-good dude. He’s what you want in a middle linebacker. He’s a great dude — I’ve been with him four years now and know what he’s about. He’s a hard worker and it’s cool to see him get that.”
Bootle added to his Big-Ten leading pass break-up count with three more in the game, giving him 13 on the season. After committing two pass interference penalties last week against the Wildcats, Bootle — and all of the Nebraska defensive backs along with him — did a much better job of turning to make a play on the ball on Saturday.
A common sentiment on social media after the Huskers gave up three straight touchdowns was “here we go again.” Coach Scott Frost said he even felt a little of that himself.
“The team last week was in a similar situation last week,” Frost said. “One of the things we talked about is when you’re in that situation, what are you thinking? I asked each one of them, ‘What were you thinking. Were you thinking we were going to get this done? Let’s go end this.’ Or were you thinking ‘Oh no, what might happen?’ We want our guys to play with a desire to excel and no fear of failure all the time. We can’t be worried about that. I think our team responded to that situation better today than it has since I’ve been here.”
Frost wasn’t trying to necessarily get his team fired up in that moment. He wanted to gauge where their heads were at, because how they responded was ultimately going to come down to them and them alone.
“Coaches sometimes think that some magical words I say is going to get them going,” Frost said. “We motivate them as much as we can. At some point it’s got to come from inside them to finish it. To go out to make the play, to finish it. I saw it today. I saw guys fight back and not worry about them scoring a couple times. I saw guys go out and take the game over. We made the plays at the end to really run away from it.”
Nebraska was in danger of a late game collapse for the second straight week, but this time the Huskers made a play to to cut short the Gopher comeback. That’s why this week’s Play of the Game is Dedrick Young’s fourth quarter interception.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.